Niall Lyons gives his tips ahead of this weekend's Italian Open.
The Milano Golf Club becomes centre stage for the third time in a row in Italy but this years event takes a lot more significance than usual. Now part of the Rolex Series this event is elevated to new status and sees an influx of big players coming to the sun drenched Capital. Spanish duo Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia head the star studded field and with the weather gods due to shine on the players this week it will no doubt prove to be a popular event. The course is right down our street for a punt as it definitely favours the more accurate golfer. The course is tight with intricate dog legs and tall trees lining fairways. There is no doubting that strategy off the tee is paramount here. The more shots saved without having to pitch out onto fairways or blocking yourself out on dog legs will give you an advantage on the rest.
This will be Jon Rahm's debut on the course and on the face of it I don't think it suits. Sure, he won at Torrey Pines, a layout dominated by trees and tight fairways but this is a bit more of a puzzle. His length will not pay dividends here and I'd expect him to fare better on the longer courses where you can really open your shoulder with the driver. That being said he is lightyears better than anyone else in this field right now and could surpass my expectations. Molinari turns up as defending champion and that has it's downside as well as playing in front of his home fans. That is almost double's the pressure he would usually be under here as many will expect the same fireworks as last year. The course is right up his alley although he finds it difficult enough to win very often so anything less than 20/1 doesn't tickle me.
I have a small gander of golfers for this weeks proceedings and all at big enough odds, steering clear of the favs. First up a few of the fancier prices about VICTOR DUBUISSON (best price 60/1) have sank beneath the ocean but the remaining price is still worth betting. A former winner of a Finals series event in Turkey (twice at the very similar Maxx Royal course) he has the penchant for turning up with some fire in his belly at these events. He played absolutely phenomenal stuff on Sunday at St Andrews and he is a man who needs a performance like that to tune him in. We all know he is an unreliable sort and question marks surround whether we'll even get more than an 18 hole run for our money but I certainly expected him to be a shade skinnier in price this week. The Monty course is Turkey requires supreme accuracy off the tee and this layout is exactly the same. Couple that with Sunday's heroics and the Frenchman is my top bet this week.
Second on our list and looking ever increasingly like getting near a win on the European Tour is DAVID LINGMERTH (best price 45/1). He has aspirations of qualifying for the Ryder Cup and I believe he would be a proper addition to the line up with his experience of taking on his American counterparts on a weekly basis. Lingmerth has always shown form on courses where an accurate long game is required. He first burst onto the scene a number of years back with a runner up finish to Tiger at Sawgrass in 2013. More memorable performances were to come and with a win at Jack Nicklaus' event he took himself onto a bigger stage. Muirfield is another track where his long game translates very well. This week should be no different and with two solid results under his spikes in Europe in the past few weeks he certainly has the tenacity to pull off a win like this.
LUCAS BJERREGAARD (best price 66/1) performed well once again after his win in Portugal with a top ten at the British Masters. That venue required accuracy from the tee and I've always looked to have him on my shortlist on venues like these ever since his performance in Hong Kong a few years ago. Overall the lad is playing very solid golf and the missed cut last week can be overlooked for the time being due to the format. His confidence is high and another big performance looks likely on a suitable venue.
There is quite a strong Wentworth and Crans link to this course in Italy and I'm happy to place a few quid on a late developer who has produced some very impressive performances this season. HIDETO TANIHARA (best price 80/1) started off the season with a top ten in Hawaii but better results were to follow with being beaten in the World Matchplay Semi Final then finishing 3rd at Wentworth in the Summer. He was right in the thick of it heading into day four in the Irish Open only to be outdone by the weather but he has shown enough for me this term to convince me to back him on a course that should suit his tidy game.